Budget committee fishing for animal control costs

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Taking a bite out of Casco’s animal control violations will likely take some planning, some budgeting, and some fine tooth combing.

As municipal budget season gains full speed, the Casco Finance Committee has recommended a cost estimate be provided for enforcing animal control policies as well as other needs in the department. The topic surfaced again during a Casco Board of Selectmen meeting.

On Tuesday, Selectman Ray Grant pushed to address any monetary needs for the Animal Control Office (ACO) headed by Sue Fields, Casco’s animal control officer.

Earlier this year, during a Special Town Meeting in January, residents adopted several animal-control-related policies. Now, money will be need to be allocated in the 2012-13 budget in order to enforce these policies and push forward with fining residents for infractions. Also, money should be budgeted to pay for staff courses and required certifications, and the possible purchase of items to use in the field.

There were no immediate cost estimates.

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said until Fields has spent time trying to enforce the new policies, it is difficult to guess how many hours her workload will increase. Also, in-state classes – needed to update certificates and training — are offered at low cost to municipalities, he said, adding it is just a matter of researching which courses are necessary and planning ahead.

In a related topic, Grant asked about posting signs to prohibit people from taking dogs into town-owned cemeteries. This was one of the ordinance changes supported at the special town meeting, he said.

Morton explained that although the town does not own all the cemeteries in Casco, at some point in history the town took responsibility for the maintenance of those cemeteries where war veterans were buried. The town maintains seven cemeteries, he said.

“I don’t know if we have the legal right to post them. On the other hand, we are responsible for the maintenance,” Morton said, “and sometimes dog owners don’t take care of, don’t pick up after their dogs.”

“It is quite easy (to enforce the policy) if the animal control officer sees a dog and its owner in cemetery. But, we can’t stake out the cemetery. That would cost too much,” he said.

“What are the repercussions of enforcing that law?” he said.

Grant favored enforcing the law — and biting the bullet on the nominal costs — as a matter of principle.

“I certainly don’t want a dog desecrating on my grave,” he said.

Selectman Tracy Kimball questioned how widespread the problem was, asking, “Do you think this is going to be a big issue?”

Morton answered, “It has been an issue in other communities.”

As final note, Chairman Barbara York reminded dog owners to reregister their canines, or resident will receive a notice from the town — in which a fine will be attached to the registration fee.

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